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Arts & Entertainment

Developing a Comedic Persona

Steve Martin

Lesson time 11:37 min

It's not just what you say, it's how you say it. Steve explains how his own stage persona emerged and teaches you how to cultivate one that will take your material to the next level.

Steve Martin
Teaches Comedy
Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.
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What are you doing onstage is creating an artistic image of yourself determined by the things you put in, the things you leave out, it's level of intellect, high or low, the use of language, everything is determining who you are as an artistic being on the stage. That's a very lofty way to think, you know, when you're just trying to get some material together. But ultimately, as it gets more sophisticated and starts to shape, you realize you're creating a human being. And that's what these great comedians did. If you look at Chris Rock, for example, he's created something. He created something from the sum total of his energy, and his routines, and his observations into a whole artistic state. And that of course, is the ultimate but-- And it's kind of beautiful. [MUSIC PLAYING] Once I was on an airplane, and I was in my 20s, something like that. And there was a very pretty girl on the airplane, and I was talking with her. And I said, what do you do. And she said, I'm an actress. And I said, oh. And we started talking. And she says I'm an actress. And she says it's very hard, you know, when I go into auditions to decide what to be. I don't know whether to be upbeat, or kind of low key, or more artistic. And I said, why don't you just be yourself? And she said, I'll try that. And I thought you have try to be yourself. But I've changed my opinion, because I often hear well just be yourself. But who knows what their self is? I don't. I mean maybe I have a little more now, but when you're starting out, you don't know what yourself is. You can be what you choose to be, and you can define a personality for yourself within reason, of course, and become that onstage. You already have a persona. Even if you're mildly interested in show business, you have some shape to your personality. But it is something that will emerge if you pay attention to yourself and pay attention to what's coming out naturally. [MUSIC PLAYING] Imagine yourself one night lying in bed, just imagine yourself at your best. Think, what would that be, if I were at my best? What is that image that comes into your head? And it's going to be very vague. But once you plant that image in your head, it's subconsciously something you're aiming for. Like, you say, what will I be at my best? Will I be totally in charge? Will I pace the stage? Will I be aggressive? Will I be witty, kind of more subtle? Will I be obvious? What do I want the audience's response to be? And I think it will lead you to creating your shape, and your form, and your personality-- As to have some kind of vague image of where you'd like to be ultimately. Now, the fact is your act is going to be created as you go along. Bits, they work. They don't work. Bing, you put them together. And it is really built in a practical framework, but it's also I think...

A comedian walks into a classroom...

One of Steve’s first gigs was at the drive-in movies. When the audience liked a joke, they honked. In this comedy class, Steve shares insights from performing for cars and humans over a 50-year career spanning sold-out arenas and blockbuster films. Learn how to find your voice, gather material, develop an act, and take your comedy writing to the next level.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Wonderful class with Steve Martin, so funny and interesting. I feel like I learned a lot that can be applied to other things in life too!

I need to go back thru it again. There is so much material here. First time thru , I'm only skratching the surface.

As a student of Comedic Arts at Emerson College, this has served as excellent supplementary material to my studies.

Steve is an amazing instructor and I have gained so much knowledge from his teachings. I am ready to release the funny!!


Dennis M.

I am reviewing Steve's classes for the first time in a couple of years. I think the best lesson of the entire series is the "IMAGINE YOURSELF AT YOUR BEST" segment.

A fellow student

Its entertaining, eye opening and informative. This is an art form that often is not credited as such, but it takes a lot of hard work to make it great.

A fellow student

I don't have an interest in entering this field, but watching Steve in this Master Class is still very entertaining and informative.

A fellow student

WOW! i am only 5 lessons in, but oh my goodness i am learning so many good things out of these! Thank you Steve Martin, you give amazing advice. i am still very young, but in the hopes of going to the comedy and acting career in the future. this is helping me a lot!

Gary M.

I started asking for feedback and found that my worst qualities are that I'm impulsive and sometimes fatalistic in that once I think something is a certain way, it's hard to convince me otherwise and I get stuck in that mindset. I'm definitely going to develop these and make them my friends.

A fellow student

Loving this. Of course, i’ve been a Steve Martin fan since I was a kid so it’s great to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of his mind.

Your Pal, E.

I love how the advice in this lesson extends beyond comedy. Awhile ago, I realized that stand-up isn't my calling, but there's so much practical insight that I can apply to the artistic path I've chosen. Thank you!

Matthew B.

I am putting together a little bit using Gluten Free foods as my theme. Couple props

Diana F.

i loved this lesson. The ideas here can so be applied outside of comedy and as I am never likely to do standup the idea of exploiting my worst traits sounds so much fun I might have to give comedy a go (I can be pretty disorganised - in fact i think it's a great skill to be disorganised).. Treat myself in a more lighthearted fashion - in fact just enjoy all the different aspects of persona.

A fellow student

Might I ask that you do something similar with Patton Oswalt and punching up scripts?